The 40 hour challenge

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THIS term, I’ve been asked to do some professional development at a public primary school near where I live. My role here is to help them explore building a professional learning community (PLC) – though the motivation and learning of their students. I don’t see myself there to ‘teach’. It’s a school of about 400, well run with great kids and very supportive staff and community. Like many similar schools there are two or three that have been experimenting and exploring with read/write media, but the majority are not.

It was kicked off with a hands on workshop which I modded from Mark Wegner’s methods. Mark has a ‘clean’ style that I like when it comes to workshops.

The focus of the project is to allow everyone to contribute something; and not anyone – and therefore suffer the push-back.

I’m also only intending a very small toolset – Penzu and DET’s own blog engine (if available to the school). Teachers can only spend 40 hours over the whole term on it. The rest has to be from the students. Student of course can do anything they like – if they can justify it and explain it.

So 40 hours, 1 hour per teacher and 1 tool to build and maintain a learning community. I do like simple plans.

Penzu?. One, because it looks like paper and two, DET hasn’t blocked it (yet). Students will start a reflective journal, using Penzu’s email feature. Their teacher will use Gmail to receive the posts; and forward them to filtered folder in DET mail. This is to try and keep the ‘process’ of the work flow familiar. I made a video to explain Penzu in a few minutes, but I wanted to cover off all the basics. The aim is for every class to make at least one journal entry a week on class topic. Students can work on it at home too if they want. Individually, the teachers are going to use the journals to assess ONE literacy outcome (to be decided).

There is a very short Resource List I’m using (but with a lot of exploration).

How the project works – staff spend 40 hours of time on the project. No more or less; and journal their time.

  • Teachers put up 4 ideas in the staffroom, of how they can use a ‘blog’ to support the school community and encourage the community to support the school. This is pen and paper stuff in the staffroom.
  • Take those 4 ideas to the school community to select/improve or suggest other ideas – via Posters and teacher discussion with their class. Perhaps the students will have their own ideas.
  • The students become the researchers and reporters on the 4 topics; and what they want to focus on; the teachers will be the editors; but have to justify their actions to the students. Other topics can be explored; but only if time and resources permit. Students can work at home or in their library time if they want.
  • The wider school community can comment or suggest things to be included; and of course they will deal with the student via the ‘feedback desk’ (via the teachers) – moderation though negotiation
  • Each teacher is being asked to provide just ONE hour of support to the project over the term. This is ONE hour that they will learn and contribute something to this co-curricula project. This can be actually working online; or perhaps helping someone else take photos or make something that they need help with.
  • The project can take no more than 40 hours of staff time in the term – anything else needs to be created and managed by the students.

The aim is for teachers and students to develop skills as they need them; with a very easy WIN in the early days. I am pushing the use of contextual development having higher adoption rates that ‘training’. This is something that we’re finding in my day job.  I’m finding that empowering everyone equally is seems to work better that creating a few elite leaders or users in learning communities. When everyone has a role to play, the project grows, but not all roles need be technical, and benefits from diversity.

To me a 21st Century school can’t be judged on the number of wipeboards or laptops; but whether or not that community is able to find a benefit for 21st Century technology. I guess time will tell. If you’re interested in joining; or undertaking the same project – just let me know, more than happy to talk more.

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2 thoughts on “The 40 hour challenge

  1. I’m very interested in understanding and joining to the extent possible from Minneapolis.

    Our school is not unlike the one you describe, I think.

  2. I am the teacher-technologist at a very large public school in Houston, Tx. We have mandatory PLC’s by grade level only. I like your idea to make the PLC school-wide and involve students. I would like more information, please! I would love to suggest this at our early staff meetings in August. I am concerned about teaching the teachers how to use this tool effectively. Thank you!

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